The top celebrity book clubs that every bibliophile should follow

What do Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Emma Watson, Jenna Bush Hager, and Sonali Bendre have in common? All of them share a love for books and regularly share recommendations via their clubs.
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COVID-19 downed the shutters on all friend and family outings, including weekend getaways, movies, concerts, coffee dates, and lunches and dinners. And as social distancing became the new normal, more and more of us turned to solo pastimes such as movies, DIY, and cooking to stay sane.

A majority chose to hunker down and bury themselves in the pages of a good book.

The last year has shown us that literature can – apart from distracting and offering comfort – can become the mainstay of community.

No wonder then that numerous digital book clubs were born across the globe, and let people discuss their favourite books, interact with top authors, discuss moral issues, and meet up with other bookworms virtually.

If you’re among the many struggling to choose what to read next, a celebrity book club could help steer you in the right direction. Most of these book-loving celebrities make book recommendations and use their clout to arrange author interviews, discussions, and giveaways.

What are you waiting for? Remember what Game of Thrones author George R R Martin said – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one” – and make your choice today!

Reese’s Book Club

2M Instagram followers

Recent picks: The Last Thing He Told Me, The Henna Artist, Northern Spy

The seekers of joy. The lovers of story. The keepers of fictive kin. Book lovers are all this and more – and Reese Witherspoon agrees whole-heartedly, which led her to turn founder and booklover-in-chief at this extremely popular book club.

The Oscar and Golden Globe winner wears many hats with style – she acts, produces, designs, serves on many boards, and also find the time to read regularly. The actor, who published her first book, Whiskey in a Teacup, in 2018, also recently served up some great book-to-screen adaptations: Wild, Big Little Lies, and Little Fires Everywhere. Clearly, she loves stories in every format.

With Reese’s Book Club, she chooses two current interesting and thought-provoking books with female leads — one for adults and one for YA readers – and supplements the book reading and discussion with author interviews.

Years on, Reese's “big idea” remains the same: “to connect with you all by shining a light on the stories I found meaningful—charming, hilarious, insightful, thrilling, and diverse narratives from a female perspective”.

Sonali’s Book Club

27.3k Instagram followers

Recent picks: The Midnight Library, Homegoing, The Authenticity Project

Actor Sonali Bendre says her passion for reading took a backseat “as the years went by and I got busy juggling motherhood and my career”.

She started Sonali's Book Club to interact with booklovers from across the globe and getting back in touch with reading as “I would compulsorily have to read at least one book every month”. Every month, Sonali chooses a book for members of the book club to read; this is followed by a book discussion that can be held in multiple ways (via Facebook/Instagram Live or a textual discussion online).

Other elements include #SBCMasterclass, a series of conversations with popular authors; Discoverables, which spotlights up and coming authors; and SBC Lil Ones, which aims to find age-appropriate children’s books.

Read with Jenna

142k Instagram followers

Recent picks: Great Circle, Good Company, Friends and Strangers

The TODAY book club, #ReadWithJenna, picks a new book each month to read together, discuss, and spark conversations.

Started in 2019 by Jenna Bush Hager, the club aims to shine the spotlight on “stories that will delight, entertain, and challenge readers”.

The book club’s picks traverse genres, but Jenna usually recommends books that fit her taste. “No matter what, you have to have a great, compulsively readable plot. Something where you cannot wait to figure out what's going to happen,” she says. “And, obviously, I was an English major, so it has to be beautifully well-written."

The Today Show’s website offers supplementary reading material: interviews with authors, additional reading lists, and questions to guide solo reading.

Belletrist

262k Instagram followers

Recent picks: And Now I Spill the Family Secrets, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano, Outlawed

Belletrist, which translates into a person who writes essays, particularly on literary and artistic criticism, “celebrates great books and the people who read them”.

The book club was launched by best friends Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, who have been sharing their love of reading for more than a decade by sending each other books by snail mail.

In the age of the internet, Emma and Karah decided to move online by starting a band of like-minded subscribers to celebrate a new book every month.

The friends believe that you “don’t have to be the best reader or read the most—you just need that sense of curiosity and to want to be introduced to new stories that you might not have read otherwise”.

Between Two Books

136k Instagram followers

Recent picks: Spring, My Phantoms, Everything You Ever Wanted

Between Two Books was set up by English singer Florence Welch’s fans way in 2012. The singer soon backed this initiative, recommending her favourite books and getting big names to share their loved titles as well.

The club routinely features guest recommendations from artists, writers, musicians, and directors such as Greta Gerwig, Nick Cave, Fiona Apple, Adwoa Aboah, Jeremy O. Harris, Grayson Perry , and Sally Rooney.

The vibrant community offers book recommendations, discussion prompts, video reads, and more. Amidst the pandemic, the club released a book of isolation reading material, including Rest & Be Thankful by Emma Glass, Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, and The Undying by Anne Boyer.

Our Shared Shelf

400k Instagram followers

Recent picks: Cinderella Liberator, Whose Story is This?, Beloved

As part of her work with UN Women, Emma Watson started reading as many books and essays about equality as “I can get my hands on”. Not long after, she decided to start a feminist book club to “share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too”.

In 2020, the actor decided to stop making the regular bi-monthly announcements of her picks via the board, and said she would call out future picks through Instagram with the hashtag #oursharedshelf instead. Our Shared Shelf may be dormant on the Emma Watson front, but the group has an active presence on Goodreads, and members can discuss their reading material with each another and participate in all kinds of bookish discussions.

There are more celebs who’re helping us read between the lines.

The multi-talented Sarah Jessica Parker shares more than her love for fashion with her TV avatar, Carrie Bradshaw. SJP and Carrie are both love the written word! The actress, who loves her books, has often spoken about her favourites on TV shows and on social media, but made it official with SJP Picks.

Teaming up with Book Club Central, she offers book recommendations to avid readers and seeks support for local libraries. Her picks include The Goldfinch, The Way We Live Now, and New Grub Street.

Meanwhile, Oprah, the original celeb to launch her own book club, has also gone online. Her latest choice isn’t one, but four books, by Marilynne Robinson. The quartet, known as the Gilead novels, includes Gilead, Home, Lila, and Jack.

Oprah has endorsed Marilynne Robinson as “one of our greatest living authors”, adding that “in the Gilead novels she's written a quartet of masterpieces. The more closely I read them, the more I find to appreciate, and the more they show the way in seeing the beauty in the ordinary”.

Isn’t it time to see the extraordinary in the ordinary? Enter the world of books and you’ll see!

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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